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Supreme Court Affirms Metropolitan Magistrate’s Ruling: Insufficient Evidence for Public Caste-Based Abuse Claims Leads to Dismissal of FIR Application

Supreme Court Affirms Metropolitan Magistrate’s Ruling: Insufficient Evidence for Public Caste-Based Abuse Claims Leads to Dismissal of FIR Application 

Case Name: Priti Agarwalla And Others v. The State of GNCT Of Delhi And Others 

Case No.: Criminal Appeal No (S). 348  2021 

Dated: May 17, 2024 

Quorum:  Justice M M Sundresh and Justice S V N Bhatti 

 

FACTS OF THE CASE: 

An eager equestrian athlete can train at the Olympic Riding and Equestrian Academy, New Delhi, or simply “OREA.” The training institution in question is managed and administered by Mr. Kapil Nath Modi. The OREA trainee athletes were Appellant Nos. 2, 3, 6, and Respondent No. 2. The mother of appellant number two is appellant number one. Appellant No. 6’s parents are Appellant Nos. 4 and 5. 

June 2010 marked the Academy’s acceptance of Appellant No. 2 for equestrian training. 2009 marked the acceptance of Appellant No. 3 into OREA. It had been little more than two years since Appellant No. 6 began training at the Academy. A dedicated athlete who aspired to become the first dressage Olympic champion, respondent number two states that she has been training in equestrian sport at OREA since 2015. 

Since 1900, equestrian sports have been a part of the Olympic Games, having originated in the Greek Classics. Horse ballet is the colloquial name for the dressage sport. The judges are the riders and their equines depending on how they move, remain composed, flexible, and supple. One assesses the horse’s eagerness to do each step with the least amount of rider encouragement. Even for competitors who are not horseback riders, this activity exhibits the flawless synchronisation between the rider and the horse.  

The debate taken into consideration in this appeal is whether the athletes trained at OREA, who aimed to master the body and mind of a horse, have lost their composure, flexibility, and suppleness as a result of their training. The criminal appeal relates to the application dated 09.05.2018 filed under section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and the complaint filed by Respondent No. 2 on 29.04.2018 before SHO P.S. Fatehpur Beri, South Delhi, under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (also known as “the Act of 1989”) against the Appellants herein.  

 ISSUE: 

  • Whether the order dated 09.07.2018 of the Metropolitan Magistrate conforms to the material on record and satisfies the mandate of section 156(3) of the CrPC? 
  • Whether the complaint(s) dated 29.04.2018/09.05.2018 make out a prima facie case of an offence under section 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) of the Act 1989? 
  • Whether the impugned order is valid, legal and tenable in the facts and circumstances of the case?  

LEGAL PROVISIONS: 

  • section 156(3) of the CrPC- Procedure for investigation. The officer in charge of a police station shall promptly report any suspicions he may have about the commission of an offence to a magistrate who is authorised to take cognizance of the offence upon receiving a police report. He may also designate one of his subordinate officers, who must not be lower in rank than that prescribed by the State Government by general or special order, to accompany him to the scene to investigate the facts and circumstances of the case and, if necessary, to take action for the offender’s discovery and apprehension. 

 CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANTS:  

The learned counsel for the appellant argued that the order that is the subject of the appeal did not fully consider the context of the dispute that existed prior to the filing of the application on May 9, 2018, or the complaint on April 29, 2018, with the Ld. Magistrate. Respondent No. 2 has been urged by the OREA administrator to lodge a complaint, despite the fact that no violations of the Act of 1989 have been observed throughout time.  

He contends that Respondent No. 2 and the trainee appellants received training at OREA, that nothing is said to have transpired for years, and that all came to light when the appellants filed complaints against the administrator on April 3, 2018, and April 11, 2018.  

The administrator has pursued or pressured Respondent No. 2 to begin prosecution by filing a complaint dated 29.04.2018 and the application dated 09.05.2018 under the Act of 1989 against the appellants. This is because the administrator was unable to obtain anticipatory bail, among other things, in the FIRs filed by the Appellants.  

These complaints are said to be motivated and untrue. By drawing our attention to the numerous complaints that the appellants have filed against the OREA administrator, an attempt has been made to demonstrate that Respondent No. 2 has been brought in without any grievances against the appellants.  

 CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS: 

The learned counsel of the respondents argued that the comment that promotes caste is criminal by the Indian Penal Code of 1860. The Act of 1989 was adopted by the Parliament because it became apparent that the marginalised groups in Indian society needed to be shielded from caste-based insults and acts of assistance in crimes against individuals and property.  

Respondent No. 2 is an individual and represents one of the millions of SC/ST persons in the nation who aspire to compete in the Olympics and win a gold medal in dressage. Respondent No. 2’s complaints, submitted through a complaint dated April 29, 2018, were ignored by the police. When section 156(3) of the CrPC was invoked, the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate, via an order dated July 9, 2018, made it nearly impossible to prosecute an offence under the Act of 1989.  

He claims that Respondent No. 2’s theory of the countercase for the administrator’s reason, etc., is just another tactic used to refute the complaints. Ld. Counsel contends that in order to understand the offence that has been reported against the appellants in this case, this Court should take into account the complaints dated 29.04.2018 and 09.05.2018 as well as the pertinent documents.  

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT: 

The court observed that a few significant adjustments have been made to the legislative scheme under the Act of 1989 through Act No. 27 of 2018. It is important to recognise that Section 18A is one of the provisions that affects the Trial Court’s process. On August 20, 2018, Section 18A of the Act of 1989 became operative. As previously noted, the purported complaints in this instant appeal were made between April 29, 2018, and August 2, 2018, and they pertain to an allegation that was made two years earlier.  

Regarding the application submitted in accordance with section 156(3) of the CrPC, the court considers the discretion and jurisdiction of a magistrate. Is it necessary for the Magistrate to act upon a complaint that is brought before him and give instructions filing of a formal complaint (FIR) or, at his option, ordering a preliminary investigation after reviewing the charges. The answer to the query revolves around CrPC section 156(3).  

The court does not intend to provide numerous, concise citations on the subject. According to section 156(3) of the CrPC, the Magistrate poses a query: does the complaint as it is now presented provide evidence for directing the filing of a formal complaint or requesting information or a report from the police station with jurisdiction. The boundaries of this exercise’s inner and outside jurisdiction varies from case to case based on the type of complaint and of the charges and offence detailed in this kind of complaint. 

Taking everything into account, the Metropolitan Magistrate’s ruling is sound and unchallengeable given the facts of the case. As a result, the contested judgement is unsupportable and goes against the clause in section 4(2) of the Act of 1989 for the reasons and consideration mentioned above. As a result, the Criminal Appeal is granted and the contested judgement is overturned.  

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Judgment reviewed by Riddhi S Bhora 

Click to view judgment.

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